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Ash Cloud Detector May Prevent Disruptions

As flight patterns return to normal after the volcanic eruption and subsequent ash cloud that shut down European airspace in April, U.K.-based provider easyJet has announced its intent to test an ash cloud detector. The new technology, called Airborne Volcanic Object Identifier and Detector (AVOID), would hopefully be used to prevent such widespread disruptions in the future. Basically, the system uses infrared technology to detect ash clouds in much the same way as weather radars currently alert pilots to potential problems ahead.

Airbus is scheduled to test the AVOID system within the next two months on easyJet’s behalf, and if all goes well, the carrier plans to install the technology on its own aircraft. The Chief Executive of easyJet, Andy Harrison, said, “This pioneering technology is the silver bullet that will make large-scale ash disruption history. The ash detector will enable our aircraft to see and avoid the ash cloud, just like airborne weather radars and weather maps make thunderstorms visible.”

It’s worth noting, however, that while this system is a great addition, it may not have prevented the disruptions that occurred in April. After all, airports from Amsterdam to Zurich and airspace across the European continent were closed because of the size and duration of the ash cloud. Although pilots would have been notified of the dangers, it’s unlikely they would have been able to fly around the cloud to maintain normal operations.

This is definitely a step in the right direction, though, and hopefully other airlines will also incorporate AVOID into their aircraft. We’ll keep you updated on future developments.

Readers, what do you think about this technology? Does it make you more comfortable about planning future flights to Europe? Leave a message in the comments section below.

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